Before Olvie gets a chance to say anything, I stare at this boys black and white railroad pants and the oversized sports coat that covers part of his white t-shirt. His black hair is cut short, but it’s curly. Not straightened like some Negros I’ve seen downtown around Congress Avenue. He gets closer. His expression sits somewhere between shame and anger.
Tanner’s not a grown-up. Maybe somewhere around my age, but it’s hard to tell since he’s not much taller than me.
Mr. Ford clears his throat. “Mrs. Monroe, this here’s my nephew, Tanner Ford. My sister’s son. Came here from Alabama for a visit.”
“So? Why would I care?” she says, rude like always.
“Miss Monroe,” Tanner says, his eyes downcast. “I threw that rock. I plan to get a job here while I’m visiting. I’ll pay for it.”
The only part of Olvie that moves is her mouth when it drops to her chin.
While we wait for Olvie’s voice to return, I say, “I’m Grace Cooper. I’m staying here until my folks get back from—”
“Overseas,” Olvie says. “And you will address me as Mrs. Monroe. You hear? ”
Tanner looks at his uncle and squints like I did when Mom told me about Olvie. Although she’d never been married, she pretends to everyone that she had.
“And before you ask, I’m not kin to Marilyn Monroe,” she say. “She’s been dead a year now and I’m still here.” Olvie finger-poke-poke-pokes his chest. “And you’re damn right about paying me back. I don’t like having my little house look like a shanty with cardboard windows. Next thing you know, some people will think it’s okay to throw appliances on my front lawn. And, you gave this girl quite a shock. I was afraid I’d have to sit up with Chicken Coop last night so she wouldn’t have nightmares. Such a shock for this poor girl. That’s right.” She turns to me. “Might still have to sit in your room till you go to sleep, right Chicken Coop?”
I shrug at her foolishness. She knows better than anyone how we have our windows broken all the time. A lot of pissed off folks don’t like my parent’s beliefs on Civil Rights.
I look at Tanner. He’s got the brightest green eyes I’ve ever since on a human being.
And all that glass I had to pick out of Gladys’ wig, poor thing.”
When Tanner looks puzzled, Mr. Ford whispers something in his ear. Probably reassuring him that Gladys isn’t human.
Come to think on it,” Olvie continues. “You can start tomorrow. My utility closet needs sorting. You’ll do it for free, of course.”
“Okay,” Tanner says.
Mr. Ford gives Tanner a soft thump to his arm.
“Yes, ma’am,” Tanner says.
“First thing in the morning. And I get up at seven.” Olvie looks up. “Oh, wait just a gosh darn minute. You’re not in some kinda trouble are you?”
From my work in progress set in 1963.